[PHOTO AT LEFT - DAY OF TRIUMPHS: Filipinos pull off thrilling victories yesterday with boxer Gerry Peñalosa leading the charge of RP fighters at the Big Dome by stopping Thailand’s Ratanachai Sor Vorapin in the eighth round to keep his WBO bantamweight title. - Photo by JUN MENDOZA]

MANILA, APRIL 7, 2008 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Slowly but surely, Gerry Peñalosa brought down Thai challenger Ratanachai Sor Vorapin yesterday, kept his WBO bantamweight crown and drew a perfect 10 from his American mentor Freddie Roach.

Fighting before his cheering countrymen, the 35-year-old Peñalosa turned Sor Vorapin’s head and body into a virtual punching bag before scoring the knockout at the 2:31mark of the eighth round.

A good right uppercut by Peñalosa brought the 31-year-old Sor Vorapin down for the first time. He got up, took a few more shots and was on his feet when referee Gino Rodriguez stepped in to stop the fight.

It looked like a premature stoppage, but Sor Vorapin has taken a lot of hits all throughout the fight and a knockout, it seemed, was bound to happen anyway.

The scattered crowd cheered louder the moment the fight was stopped. There was no doubt that the Filipino southpaw was the better fighter, the one in command throughout the scheduled 12-rounder.

Manny Pacquiao, the reigning WBC super-featherweight champion, got up quickly from his ringside seat, shook the hands of Peñalosa and joined the mild celebration on top of the ring.

“He was tough. He wanted the win. But I wanted to win, too. I didn’t want to be humiliated in front of my countrymen,” said Peñalosa over the microphone, just moments after the win.

Then he challenged Daniel Ponce de Leon, the reigning WBO super-bantamweight champion who is all set to defend his crown against Juan Manuel Lopez on June 6.

“I want him. I want the fighter who defeated Boom Boom (Bautista),” said Peñalosa. It was his first defense of the title he won over Jhonny Gonzales late last year in Sacramento.

Later on, he asked Bautista to give him the chance to fight de Leon first.

“Rey! (Bautista) Mauna muna ako ha (Let me go first) I’m not getting any younger. Please. Give me a chance,” said Peñalosa as Bautista, only 21 years old, smiled in approval.

Bautista won in the undercard, knocking out Mexico’s Genaro Camargo in the second round. Also winning was AJ Banal who stopped Uruguay’s Caril Herrera in the fourth, and Ciso Morales who downed Korea’s Yoo Shin Kim in the fifth.

Roach, barely hours after flying in from Los Angeles, manned Peñalosa’s corner. He liked was he saw.

“I felt beautiful. He has great technique and very good defense. I felt he could have taken the guy out earlier but he took his time. So, I told him ‘Gerry let’s take this guy out before something happens or we get cut or something,’” said Roach.

Asked to rate his fighter, he said, “Ten.”

In each of the earlier rounds, Peñalosa had Vorapin in trouble, particularly in the fourth where he went for the kill. But the Thai, who swung wildly at the champion, grappled until the bell sounded.

In the fifth, Sor Vorapin was once again on the verge of a knockdown but still got away with his grappling moves. In the sixth and seventh rounds, it stayed that way, with the Filipino going for the kill.

Peñalosa was way ahead on all scorecards when the end finally came.

At the post-fight press conference, more than an hour after the fight, Sor Vorapin’s face looked like a Halloween mask despite the absence of cuts. Peñalosa looked fresh despite a bruise on the bridge of his nose.

They sat beside each other, and Peñalosa, looking at Sor Vorapin, said “Sorry. Now, we’re friends.”

The Thai challenger, who also lost to Peñalosa inside six rounds in 2000, offered no excuses for the loss, saying, through an interpreter, “I failed to bring the title back to Thailand but I’m happy to be given the chance.”

Peñalosa said Vorapin hurt him a couple of times, too, in the second and fifth rounds.

“Yes. Many times. But it’s okay. If you want to win you have to take them,” said the champion who wants to fight two or three more times before hanging up his gloves.

He evaded a question regarding his purse, saying, “The BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) is listening.”

“Gerry is at the tailend of his career. And he wants to go out with a bang. He wants the big names. He wants de Leon or Rafael Marquez,” said Eric Gomez of Golden Boy, which promotes Peñalosa.

Open crown stays at home as Que wins By Dante Navarro Monday, April 7, 2008

Angelo Que kept the Philippine Open crown at home soil, outduelling Australian Gavin Flint in a nerve-wracking backside battle and frustrating Danny Chia of Malaysia with a closing one-over par 73 for a one-shot win before a big Sunday crowd at Wack Wack’s east course.

Que, thwarting charges from at least four rivals in a thriller of a finale, chipped to within a foot for par on the 72nd hole, ensuring the victory for the Filipino shotmaker, who finally snapped a four-year drought on the Asian Tour after capturing the inaugural Vietnam Masters in 2004.

“It was sweeter the second time around,” said Que, who tipped his cap while acknowledging the cheers from the gallery that ringed the 18th green. He then threw the cap in the air after tapping for par that gave him a four-day aggregate of 283 worth $47,550 (P1.9 million).

But the win, which also enabled Que to keep his Asian Tour card for another two years, was worth more than the prize money.

“It’s a different kind of feeling winning the Philippine Open. I can’t just explain,” said Que, who bravely fought off the challenge of his pursuers in the first nine holes then kept his composure despite yielding the lead to Flint on No. 11. But he fought back with crucial birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 to regain control before coming up with that gimme par on the 18th to secure the victory.

“The key here was I kept my composure all week,” said Que, who never had a score worse than a bogey throughout the tournament. He finished with just 11 bogeys against 14 birdies and an eagle to snare the crown from Frankie Miñoza.

Chia, who started five flights ahead of the final group eight shots behind Que, rallied with five birdies in the last eight holes to fire the day’s best score of an eagle-aided 66 and snatched second place with a four-under 284 worth $32,550. Flint, two shots behind Que at the start of the final round, moved to within one at the turn, drew level with a birdie on No. 10 then wrested the lead when the Filipino dropped a stroke on the next after missing the green.

But the Aussie bet cracked up in the closing holes, bogeying the last two for a 73 for third at 285. “It’s a very challenging week, but I’m quite pleased with the way I finished,” said Flint, who closed out with a bogey-bogey, including the final hole where he drove into the trees, played out and two putted for 5. He won $18,300.

Japanese Kodai Ichihara, the leader in the first two days and trailed by one in the final round, succumbed to pressure and limped with a 76 to drop to joint seventh with Korean Nam Young (74) at 287. Each took home $8,130.

Tony Lascuna, who moved to within one off Que after 11, failed to sustain his charge and struggled coming home for a 73 despite a birdie on No. 17, settling for joint fourth with Mitchell Brown of Australia and Singapore’s Mardan Mamat, who both carded 73s, at 286. Each went home with $12,420.

Chia was actually hoping to force a playoff as the final flight stumbled with bogeys on the dreaded No. 17 with Que dropping to 5-under and Flint to 4-under. But the Malaysian ace had to settle for runner-up honors as the Filipino bet came up with that chipped-and-putt windup.

Chia said earlier he hoped to break the long standing record of 64 posted by Chinese Kuo Chie-Hsiung in the 1978 Open but he just couldn’t pull it off despite a four-under start after five holes as he stumbled with a bogey on the seventh.

“I woke up today feeling lucky. I even asked Gerald (Rosales) for the course record because deep down I knew I would do well today,” said Chia, who went four-under after five holes, spiked by an eagle on No. 4.

Que didn’t dish out his best yesterday, his 73 far from approximating his solid 66 Saturday. But it was enough to make him the new toast of RP golf.

He actually was after he clinched a spot in the British Open in July, becoming only the second Filipino after Miñoza in 1998. But Que said his Open victory was far more significant than that of the British Open spot.

“This victory was bigger than my British Open feat,” said Que, who also gained inspiration from his wife Tracy Locsin who is seven-week pregnant. “But it wasn’t easy. I had to fight to the finish. I knew I had to keep my rhythm and do everything right until the final hole.”

It was indeed a big victory for Que, who raised hopes for another Filipino victory by surging ahead Saturday with a solid 66 and bravely kept his overnight one-shot lead in the first nine holes, even hiking it to two after 6 over Flint and three over Ichihara with a birdie from four feet.

The other biggest gainer – or loser – was Lin Wen-tang, who closed out with a four-under 68 to finish, just five strokes off the winner, a deficit he could’ve easily overhauled if not for his record 12 on the par-3 17th in the third round that gave him an 80. He, however, jumped from 26th to joint ninth and took home $5,975.

For a brief moment, Que and Lascuna, playing in separate flights, held the 1-2 positions, sparking hopes of another RP domination after Miñoza beat Rosales by two shots in last year’s edition of the fabled tournament.

Lascuna was still at it with a one-under card after 12 holes but dropped out of the race with missed-green bogeys on Nos. 13 and 15. He wound up in a tie with Artemio Murakami who fought back with a 69 to jump from 26th to joint 13th with a 289 while Minoza closed out his unsuccessful title-retention bid with a second straight 71, blowing a three-under card with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 for a 290.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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